Pop Culture Blind Spot: The Sandlot

Before you say anything, I KNOW. I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW.

In my defense, I think I actually have seen The Sandlot, but wasn’t paying attention because I don’t really remember anything about it. And I’m three decades old. I also confused all the 90s baseball movies (Little League Angels of the Year and the Rookie in the Outfield of Dreams) together, so it bears some refreshing. Plus it’s coming off Netflix streaming and I thought I’d watch it (again?).

Knowledge of this film:

Baseball with kids. A backyard. Something about ‘You’re kiddin’ me Smalls’.

Actual IMDb description:

A new kid in town is taken under the wing of a young baseball prodigy and his team in this coming of age movie set in the summer of 1962. Together, they get themselves into many adventures involving rival teams, lifeguards, and a vicious dog.

*I did not remember this was set in 1962.

Question I always ask before talking about one of those 90s baseball movies: Is this the one Scott Patterson (Luke Danes) is in?

Answer: No. He was in Little Big League.

little big league scott

HOLY SMOKES I G2G WATCH THIS BRB

Denis Leary is in this? And James Earl Jones?

Mike Vitar plays main character Benny ‘The Jet’ Rodriguez, and in the back of my mind I knew the name sounded familiar, but he hasn’t acted since 1997. Why did I know his name when this movie has no relevance to me? Oh, because I legit wrote about him being arrested for assault.

Mike quit acting and became an LA firefighter, and last Halloween, he and two other off-duty firefighters allegedly beat up a man. They all plead not guilty in January, but it’s unclear what the verdict if there has been one yet. Yikes.

This movie takes place in the San Fernando Valley aka “The Valley” aka where I live!! …It was all filmed in Utah.

In my head, “The Sandlot” was someone’s backyard and it was next to a crochety old lady like Ellen Burstyn in The Baby-Sitters Club movie.

“Don’t be a goofus!” Scotty Smalls but also my new motto in life.

Scotty ends up in the far outfield in The Sandlot, but when the ball comes flying towards him, he misses it. To make matters worse, it lands right next to the fence with the Cujo-type dog barking and when he throws it back to the pitcher… well, he doesn’t and all the boys laugh at him. At 9 years old, I would’ve found this funny. As a 30 year old, I call this bullying. #Adulting.

We’re eight minutes in, and Scotty has used the phrase “got into the biggest pickle” twice already. Take a shot.

Mom: Honey, I want you to make some friends this summer, lots of them.

Smalls: Yeah, I know. But I’m not good at anything, mom. Face it, I’m just an egghead.

SMALLS IS SO ADORABLE I JUST WANT TO EMBRACE HIM. He also keeps hesitating on what to call his stepdad (Denis Leary) either Bill or Dad and it’s 2QT. I hope BillDad is a good guy. At least he agrees to play catch with Smalls. Except he ends up with a black eye.

Denis Leary looks perfect for the 1960s here

Benny shows up at Smalls’ door and invites him to play ball this is the MOST TENDER.

The kid who’s in The Big Green is in all the 90s sports movies, no? His name is also Hamilton and they all call him ‘Ham’. There’s an opportunity for a crossover here. I just don’t know what it is yet.

SQUINTS: No you don’t. It’s stupid, Benny. The kid’s an L-7 weenie. <<< What does this mean.

Benny has the patience of a saint. After Smalls couldn’t catch the ball, he hits the ball directly at Smalls and tells him not to move and just keep his arm up. And then later:

Benny: You got a fireplace?

Smalls: Yeah, why?

Benny: Throw that hat in there, man. (I KNEW HE WAS GOING TO SAY THAT)

Smalls: Oh, yeah. You know, it was the only one I had.

Benny: Not anymore. Wear my old hat.

What a dream. He is a hero among boys. We all need a Benny in our lives.

“You’re killin’ me Smalls” is in reference to him not knowing what a s’more is? THIS SENTENCE IS JUSTIFIED. I know he’s from out of state but s’mores are an American (??) institution.

Basically this Cujo junkyard is described as a “true killing machine” per this Are you Afraid of the Dark? story from Squints.  Is the neighbor going to turn out to be a really nice dude IRL?

Wendy Peppercorn (IT’S Peffercorn NOT Peppercorn!?!?) slow walks through the town to The Drifters’ There Goes My Baby and I remember this is set in the 1960s. Also, Wendy is the typical babe who is probs 15 and inapprop

“Aw, Squints was pervin’ a dish.” AKA Squints was checking out Wendy Peffercorn?!

Ham also used the word “pop” for “soda”, which is not a think Californians say colloquially.

Squints pretends to drown in order to have Lifeguard Wendy save his life. I really hope kids didn’t try this at home.

This movie is rated PG and they used the word “shit”. Is that a thing? That must be a thing.

“On the 4th of July, the whole sky would brighten up with fireworks, giving us just enough light for a game. We played our best then because, I guess, we all felt like the big leaguers under the lights of some great stadium. Benny felt like that all the time. We all knew he was gonna go on to bigger and better games, because every time we stopped to watch the sky on those nights like regular kids, he was there to call us back. You see, for us, baseball was a game. But for Benjamin Franklin Rodriguez, baseball was life.” Narrator Smalls says, as the boys watch the slow motion fireworks in the night sky with awe. That is some good *shit*.

“You make your Wheaties with your mama’s toe jam!” LOL WHAT, HAM?

HAM IS A BULLY AS THE CATCHER BUT IT IS HILARIOUS. HE’S LIKE HAMILTON IRL

Benny treats the team to a free ride at the carnival. Seriously, what a dream.

Uh oh. One of them brings chewing tabacco. This isn’t going to end well. It’s so gross I can’t even watch it.

First of all, “Tequila” is playing LOL Second of all they go on a spinning tilt-a-whirl type thing and they all vom. On the other riders.

Minute 53 – Narrator Smalls says “pickle”. Take a shot.

Ohhhh no. The boys are in need of a ball after Benny lit’rally smashes it into bits. Smalls saves the day by grabbing the (Babe Ruth) ball from BillDad’s office. Prediction: it flies into the Cujo junkyard and he has to go get it.

Bertram: “Maybe the shock of his first homer was just too much for him” LOL this is a great line coming from a 5th grader.

The ball flies into the Cujo junkyard and Smalls has to go get it.

Cujo’s paw is out of CONTROL.

The boys devise a plan to fake Babe Ruth’s autograph on a separate ball to put in BillDad’s trophy case while they try to get the real one back, and it’s a real case in support of teaching kids cursive in elementary school.

Squints: She ain’t gonna buy that, Benny. It doesn’t look anything like the Babe’s signature.

Benny: It doesn’t matter what it looks like. His mom’s never gonna know the difference. This’ll just buy us some time, ya dorks!

Cujo’s being a real bitch not letting them have this ball back. What’s he gonna do, sell it on eBay? Or whatever it was in the 1960s? A… yard sale?

The dudes actually come up with a pretty ingenius plan involving three vacuums and a catcher’s mitt. That is until it blows up the tree house. Anyways, that didn’t get the ball back either.

“We’ve been going about this all wrong. I blame myself.” These kids, I tell ya.

CUJO IS HUGE-O.  Also he may or may not have rabies.

I can see why this movie was popular with kids aka my generation growing up, particularly with the scenes in which they come up with different ways to get the ball. From the vacuums to an aerial attack using a lever/pulley situation and military style robot they create, it shows creativity while making you sit on the edge of your seat

Hologram Babe Ruth shows up to tell Benny to just go over the fence and get the ball back. He is played by the diner owner in that one Boy Meets World episode where Shawn attempts to run away after his dad dies.

Babe Ruth says “pickle”. Take a shot.

Benny saves the day by jumping over and grabbing the (now mangled?) ball. Except Cujo breaks free from his chain and begins chasing Benny through the streets. Cujo even breaks through a glass window, in a movie theater, through a Founder’s Day festival and underneath Uncle Sam just to follow Benny. This is exhausting.

They end up back in The Sandlot and the fence falls on Cujo, but Smalls, being the good kid that he is, attempts to lift the fence off Cujo, and only Benny helps.

Why does Cujo look like it’s a CGI dog?

Cujo has been secretly hoarding their baseballs! And the owner of the junkyard is a blind James Earl Jones!

They all gang up on Squints because James Earl Jones says he would’ve just gotten it for them if they knocked and didn’t believe the stupid urban myth.

JEJ calls Babe Ruth “George”, so obviously he knows him. He offers to trade Smalls and Benny a ball signed by the 1927 Yankees. Wait IS he blind?? Or going blind?

You guys come by here once a week and talk baseball with me and we’ll call it a deal.

Thank GOD Denis Leary is a nice guy in this.

So we get an epilogue of sorts telling us where each kid ended up, and each one slowly disappears. It’s making me tear up a little? Bertram got really into the 60s and no one ever saw him again (lol), the twins invented mini mall Squints married Wendy Peffercorn?! AND HAD NINE KIDS?!

BENNY PLAYS FOR THE DODGERS NOOOO AND SMALLS IS A COMMENTATOR WEARING THE OLD HAT AND I’M CRYING I WAS NOT EXPECTING THIS I’M OLD AND UNDERSTAND THE VALUE OF TIME

When one guy would move away,
we never replaced him on the team with anyone else.
We just kept the game going like he was still there.

Well, that final scene made it for me. I get it, you guys. I get it now.

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Baseball Movies, A Late 80s/Early 90s Micro-Trend Remembered

Baseball and film go together like, well, peanuts and cracker jacks. The oldest baseball comedy I could track down, Baseball Madness, was released in 1917, so the genre is almost 100 years old. As recently as 2014, Million Dollar Arm and 42 proved that the baseball film isn’t going anywhere. Still, I’d argue that the baseball movie was especially hot during the late 80s and early 90s. Some of these films recycled plot points and key scenes, but they’re still the best way to begin the most wonderful time of the year: MLB season.

Bull Durham

Year: 1998

Catch Phrase: This speech that I hate:

(I forgot how much I hated this speech but I do. I hate it.)

Key points: One of the only baseball rom-coms on this list (or in film, to be honest). Kevin Costner (Crash) mentors pitcher Tim Robbins (Nuke). Susan Sarandon (Annie) loves them both. Basically Annie and Crash both “coach” Nuke and in the process they form this weird enmeshed relationship. Who will she choose? (Spoiler: Crash, after Nuke makes it to the majors.) Also this is where I learned that baseball groupies exist.

Fun facts:

  • Sports Illustrated has named Bull Durham the best sports movie ever made.
  • Writer/director Ron Shelton was a minor leaguer himself, playing for the Rochester Red Wings (incidentally, our hometown team).
  •  Susan Sarandon, at 41, was thought to be too old to play the love interest of Tim Robbins (29) and Kevin Costner (32).
  • Sarandon and Robbins, who were together for over 20 years, met during filming.
  • The wedding extras came from a nearby Pink Floyd concert.

Is Costner In It: Yes

Field Of Dreamszone27s-5-web

Year: 1989

Catch Phrase:

Key points: Kevin Costner again plays a baseball guy (Ray Kinsella) with a significant other named Annie (Amy Madigan). His dead father shows up and tells him to plow a baseball diamond into his cornfield, which he and his wife both think is a reasonable request. Then all these basbeball ghosts from 1919 keep showing up, which again leaves everybody more or less nonplussed. Okay, then it’s time for a road trip, and Ray meets an author and they see ghost stats from the 1920s on a Fenway scoreboard. Spooooky. Except not, because again, nobody is really disturbed by any of this. Right. Well, they meet more baseball ghosts, and then they go back to the farm, and Ray’s dead father comes to play catch. Ray’s daughter Karin chokes on a hotdog, because this is baseball, and a baseball ghost named Moonlight saves her, then walks off into the corn. They all play baseball and people come to the games. This summary has been provided by me watching this movie on cable a lot when I was under the age of 8, and then not seeing it for the past two decades.

Fun facts:

Gaby Hoffman (Now and Then and – more recently – Transparent, Girls and Obvious Child) plays little Karin.

It sounds made up but it isn’t: a young Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were extras at Fenway.

James Stewart was offered the role of Moonlight Graham.

A lot of the baseball ghosts were from the 1919 Black Sox scandal.

Is Costner In It: Yes

Major League

Year: 1989

Catch Phrase:

Key points: A showgirl inherits the Cleveland Indians, and tries to trigger an escape clause to move the team to Miami. To do that she needs low attendance, so she hires a ragtag team of really old or really bad baseball players. I think if you’ve ever seen a movie you know where this is going: they pull it together and win. Plus, they beat the Yankees, which as a Mets/ Red Sox blog we really enjoyed.

Fun facts:

  • Charlie Sheen (Ricky Vaughn) almost landed a role in another late 80s/early 90s baseball movie: Bull Durham.
  • Sheen took steroids to prep for the role, even though by now we all realize he isn’t really a person who needed to get hyped up by ‘roid rage.
  • In the original ending, showgirl owner Rachel Phelps actually never planned to move the team to Miami, she just wanted to give the team some motivation. But why did she field such an (on paper) terrible team, then?
  • Pete Vuckovich (Clu) was a real MLB player, and when told to say something to the catcher that a real ball player would say, he asked “how’s your wife and kids.” The sport of gentlemen, my friends.

Is Costner In It: No

A League Of Their Ownleage-own

Year: 1992

Catch Phrase:

Key points: During WWII, with baseball-aged men fighting the war oversees, the All-American Girls League is formed. Among the players: sisters Kit and Dottie, dancer Mae, Southern Belle Ellen Sue, and poor frumpy Marla Hooch. Manager Jimmy Dugan is a total jerk and he’s really mean, but the players are all fantastic and Jimmy can STFU. Kit and Dottie have a Venus and Serena-style sibling faceoff. Then it’s 1988 and the players are all old ladies, and they sing their baseball song, and I cry every single time.

Fun facts:

  • If you think this isn’t one of the best sports movies ever, you’re wrong.
  • If a group of elderly ladies reunited to reminisce about the baseball team of their youth today, they’d be looking back at 1976 (which, by my estimates, means that the “old ladies” at the hall of fame actually aren’t really old; this just came out when I was really young).
  • The director’s cut is four hours long and I want it.
  • The actresses attended baseball training camp before filming. Madonna was not great.
  • Truth > fiction and the real players in the AAGPL were pretty much amazing.

The Sandlotthe-sandlot-moviejpg-e0cddbb30033fc8a

Year: 1993

Catch Phrase: So many! Just a few:

  • You’re killin’ me, Smalls.
  • For-ev-er.
  • Remember kid, there’s heroes and there’s legends. Heroes get remembered but legends never die, follow your heart kid, and you’ll never go wrong.

Key points: If you grew up in the 90s, there’s an excellent chance you watched this dozens of times and still know when to turn away during the carnival scene. It’s a classic “gravelly voiced adult man narrates his nostalgic, sun-tinged childhood” story. Scotty Smalls moves to a new town and starts playing pickup baseball with the neighborhood kids. The sandlot where they play backs up to an old man’s house, which is guarded by a ferocious dog (the beast), so every time they hit a ball over it’s gone forever. Smalls hits his stepfather’s Babe Ruth ball over the fence, so he has to face up to The Beast. In the process he meets Mr. Myrtle, a Negro League player who gives Smalls a ball signed by all of the Yankees as a replacement.

Fun facts:

  • If The Sandlot came out today, the carefree, old-fashioned childhood would have taken place in roughly 1986. Gulp.
  • It was only 56 degrees the day they shot the Wendy Pfeffercorn pool scene.
  • The Beast was a puppet (some of the time, anyway).
  • The Sandlot’s birthday is this week, and Where Are They Nows are popping up all over the place.

Is Costner In It: No

Rookie Of The Year101215rookieoftheyear

Year: 1993

Catch Phrase: The three Rs:

Key points: Henry, a little boy, breaks his arm and it is reset in such a way that he becomes a baseball phenom. He is recruited to the Chicago Cubs. Henry’s mom has a garbage boyfriend who tries to trade Henry to the Yankees, but it doesn’t pan out. Then Henry loses his magical broken arm pitch, and it’s back to Little League – but the Cubs did the World Series thanks to him.

Fun facts:

  • Thomas Ian Nicholas (Henry) has a Cubs jersey with his character’s name on it, which he recently wore to a Cubs game, which is adorable.
  • The official MLB minimum signing age: 16.

Is Costner In It: No

Angels In The Outfield39f87a27-1e5a-476a-ba0d-dc5cc3544862

Year: 1994

Catch Phrase:

Key points: It’s really hard to tell this, Rookie of the Year, and Little Big League apart if you haven’t seen them for 20 years. But this one stars baby Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Roger, a foster kid whose dad tells him they’ll be a family again “when the Angels win the pennant.” So Roger starts praying about it, and THEN Roger and his boy J.P. watch a game and see… well, it’s in the title. They see angels. In the outfield. Roger becomes a kind of good luck charm/consultant since he knows what the angels want. The Angels make it to the championship but I guess angels aren’t allowed in the, ahem, outfield during the postseason, so they have to win it on their own. Which they do. Then Roger and his boy JP get adopted by  the team manager, George, who unlike Roger’s dad isn’t the worst.

Fun facts:

  • Received the college humor treatment, parodying sports doc series 30 for 30:

  • All-star cast: in addition to JGL, the film featured Matthew McConaughey, Adrien Brody, Tony Danza, Danny Glover, Christopher Lloyd and Dermot Mulroney.
  • Angels In The Outfield was a remake of a 1951 film of the same name.

Little Big League

Year: 1994

Catch Phrase: I feel like there weren’t any?

Key points: Rounding out the 1993-1994 “baseball would be even greater if run by little boys” series, Little Big League is about a boy named Billy who has a single mom (so many single moms in baseball movies?). Billy’s grandpa dies and Billy inherits the Minnesota Twins. So Billy has some run-ins with the grownups in the franchise who are just trying to do their jobs, and names himself manager, since he’s a 12 year old white boy (aka the living, breathing heart and soul of baseball according to early 90s films). As it turns out, little boys are bad at running baseball teams so Billy steps down after ruining things. But he’s one of those people who can ruin things and still be totally beloved, like Tim Riggins.

Fun facts:

  • IRL, owners can’t also manage their teams.
  • The early 90s baseball movie boom means there was an early 2010s “where are the people in those early 90s baseball movies now” boom, and Little Big League wasn’t left out.